Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Casey at the Bat

I am posting this because it's my blog and I can do what I like. :-)

Casey At The Bat
by Ernest L. Thayer

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, "if only Casey could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.

So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.

And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

it pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.

"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand,
and it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew,
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.

And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,
but there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out.

- Simply a fabulous poem. I've always had a few thoughts about it:

- Mudville is obviously a hick town (it's isn't called "Metropolis" or anything like that, and only 5,000 fans?), so if Casey is so "mighty," what's he doing playing there?

- Furthermore, if he was such a great hitter, why did they pitch to him at all? Why not intentionally walk him? And they didn't even pitch around him, but went right after him aggressively.

- Also, if he was such a great hitter, why did two hacks precede him?

- Casey, despite his haughty manner, took the first two pitches, maybe in an attempt to work the count. Working the count, trying to draw a walk, etc., are generally considered "an old player's skills." In other words, when a formerly great hitter can't do anything else, he can still draw walks at a good clip because of a good eye and a reputation, at least, for power.

- I can only conclude that Casey was a former major leaguer, a one-time star of the game, reduced to playing in the bus league. His name was what the fans responded to, not his ability. The opposing pitcher obviously knew that Casey was not any threat with the bat. The joke was on the crowd for believing in Casey in the first place.

- Lastly, if the above conclusion was true, I'd like to share a quick anecdote. Last year I was sitting at a Camden Riversharks game when who did I see coming up to bat, but Dante Bichette! A man next to me excitedly called a friend on his cell phone to report "I just wanted to tell you that Dante Bichette has officially hit rock bottom!" True to the poem, Bichette struck out.


At 7:01 AM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

Great post.


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